From Penn State to Afghanistan–Why Do We See No Evil When Boys Are Sexually Abused?

When I was about 12 years old, my mother took me to visit one of her cousins. As the evening approach, she and her cousin decided to go to a concert and they left me in the care of her cousin’s husband. Since I didn’t really know him, I decided to go into one of the bedrooms to watch TV. It wasn’t long before he entered the darken room. I was lying on my stomach with my head cupped in my hands, engrossed by the flickering screen. He sat down on the bed next to me. And, then it happened. He reached his hand under me and attempted to touch what I knew was only to be touched by me. I was scared. I was confused. I was vulnerable. But, I was also quick. So, I leapt to my feet and ran from the house. And, I sat on the curb, late into the night, until my mother returned.

I never told her or anyone else what happened…

So, it should come as little surprised that I was delighted to learn recently that theUnited States Army reversed its decision to discharge Sgt. 1st Class Charles Maitland. He was going to be thrown out of the Army because he body slammed an Afghan police commander who sexually assaulting a young boy.

You see, this boy told Maitland that he was tied to a post at the commander’s home and raped repeatedly for about 2 weeks. Apparently, his superiors told Maitland that these were “Afghan problems for the Afghan authorities to work out.” But, Afghan authorities would not do anything about it. So, Maitland and a fellow soldier decided to act. When they confronted the Afghan police commander, he laughed and stated, “It was only a boy.” That’s when Maitland introduced that Afghan commander to what was probably a pay-per-view worthy UFC-style body slam or two.

It’s worth noting that the New York Times recently did a story, which chronicled other cases of sexual abuse of boys on American bases in Afghanistan and our soldiers being told to ignore it.  And, in 2012 The Washington Post featured a very troubling story about Afghan “dancing boys,” which is a practice of wealthy or prominent Afghan men exploiting underage and teen boys as sexual partners, often dressing them as women to dance at gatherings. (FRONTLINE did a documentary on this practice as well.)

Now, the excuse generally used to explain why our government and military are turning a blind eye to the abuse of these boys is that there is a reluctance to impose our “cultural values” to stop these heinous practices. This logic is certainly a pernicious consequence of politically correct and selective American multiculturalism.

However, we don’t have this same reluctance when the abuse victims are girls. For example, our government leaders, cultural elites and celebrities have no problem condemning and seeking to stop deep-seated and long held cultural conventions, like the female genital mutilation and the early forced marriage of girls, which ubiquitous in many countries.

michelle obama boko haramAnd, remember when Boko Haram kidnapped 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, clearly with the intent to sexually abuse them? There was a national and worldwide movement-#BringBackOurGirls-to demand their return, which even involved First Lady Michelle Obama.

Now, of course, these efforts to protect girls are needed and I applaud and support them. But, where is the #StopRapingOurBoys campaign? Indeed, we really don’t care about the sexual abuse of boys.
In fact, this situation looks eerily similar to the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University a few years ago, which is back in the news with new allegations that Joe Paterno knew about Sandusky’s behavior in the 1970s. Consider a few of the facts from Sandusky’s case:

A janitor observed Sandusky in the showers at the Penn State football building with a young boy pinned up against the wall, preforming oral sex on the boy. The janitor immediately tells others on the janitorial staff, including his supervisor. In fact, another janitor also sees Sandusky with the boy. Despite all of this, no one makes a report of the incident.

A 28-year-old Penn State graduate assistant enters the locker room at the football building. In the shower, he sees a naked boy, who he estimates to be about 10 years old, being sodomized by a naked Sandusky. Although he tells Paterno the next day, at the time, he does nothing to stop Sandusky.

Now, replace the word “boy” in the above instances with “girl.” Do you think that two janitors would fail to stop Sandusky from sexually assaulting a young girl? I think not. What about the graduate assistant? He was a former Penn State football player. No doubt, he would have used his best form tackling technique on Sandusky to stop him from raping a little girl.

And, consider how differently the Penn State administrators, who were told by Paterno about Sandusky’s behavior, would have responded if the victims were girls. Would they have stood idly by for years? Nope. They would have taken immediate action rather than risk being on the receiving end of the wrath of celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, NOW, and numerous women’s groups on campus. They would have reasoned that Penn State getting a reputation as a university that did not protect girls and women would have deeply negative consequences for years to come.

Alas, boys have no advocacy groups to fight for them. Baby seals, pit bulls, and trees do, it seems. No matter how young and vulnerable, boys are expected to fend for themselves. But, boys are not just little men. They are children, just like girls, and they need to be protected by us all.

In fact, according to Prevent Child Abuse America, the sexual abuse of boys is under-reported and under-treated. Although the sexual abuse of girls has been widely studied, little research has been done on the abuse of boys. Accordingly, we don’t know nearly as much about it as we should. But, what we do know is quite troubling.

First, in the United States, boys at the highest risk are younger than thirteen years of age and live in father-absent homes. Second, sexually abused boys seem to experience more severe and complex consequences than girls in respect to emotional and behavioral problems. Yet, as a world culture, much like the Penn State janitors, the graduate assistant and our government and military leadership, we see what is happening, have the ability to help, but we do nothing.

As is typical with all sex scandals, in time they move from the front page to the back page; from being the lead story to a minor mention; we move on and we forget. But our boys—all over the world—need our help to protect them from evil in the world and, when they become prey, to help them heal.

But first of all, they need us to care rather than say, “It’s just a boy.”

This article originally appeared on Roland Warren’s blog.

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Roland Warren

View posts by Roland Warren
Roland C. Warren is the former President of the National Fatherhood Initiative and currently the President & CEO of CareNet, the nation’s largest network of pregnancy resource centers. He has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Today Show,” CNN, “Focus on the Family,” “Dateline NBC,” BET, Fox News Channel, “Janet Parshall’s America,” and others speaking on issues of marriage, fatherhood, and family. His writing has also appeared in numerous publications such as “The Washington Post,” “Christianity Today,” and “The Wall Street Journal.” He is the author of “Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid“.
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